Show must go on: Harlingen native new schools music director

Kara Hoeflinger, a Harlingen native, is taking the reigns of the Harlingen school district music program after the retirement of Ronnie Rios. (Courtesy photo)

After a strange and chaotic year in which Harlingen school district musicians had to practice and perform online from their homes, the year is off to a fresh start with a new director of music programs.

“I am so excited to be able to come back to this district,” said Kara Hoeflinger, who takes the reigns of the Harlingen CISD music program after the retirement of Ronnie Rios.

Hoeflinger, a Harlingen native, looks forward to a banner year as students return to the classroom and start playing together.

“One of the wonderful things about the arts and music is the connection you make with people,” she said. “No matter what’s going on with COVID and the pandemic, it still has a way of connecting us.”

She pointed out how some music directors in other school districts across Texas just “threw in the towel” and shut down the program during the pandemic.

Not so in Harlingen.

“I think Harlingen did a great job of creating opportunities for kids to perform online,” she said.

She’s looking forward now to “moving forward.” She’ll oversee all music programs — choir, orchestra, band — from pre-K to twelfth grade. She will also work with fine arts programs.

Hoeflinger, the mother of two young children attending Harlingen schools, returns to the district after serving as coordinator of fine arts at the Comal Independent School District.

“This is the only position I would have considered taking because I love Harlingen,” she said. “I grew up here and I’m a 2001 graduate of Harlingen South.”

That’s right. This talent is home grown. She comes from a sort of Camelot period at South in the late 90s and early 2000s when several band members went on to become professional musicians and educators. They include an accomplished trumpet player in New York City and Erika Uribe, assistant band director at Vela Middle School.

“We just happened to be in this little microcosm of a lot of natural talent,” she said in a previous interview.

“We had the mentality of ‘if anybody else can do it, we can do it too, and we can do it better but our way,’” Hoeflinger said. “I think that also contributes to a love for it and a love for education.”

Hoeflinger’s instrument is the French horn, but she was the band’s drum major. After leaving South, her instructors kept in touch with her. They even invited her several times to give drum major camps back in Harlingen, which she promptly accepted.

Meanwhile, she earned a bachelor of music education from Baylor University and a master of education in educational administration from Lamar University.

Her professional life includes working extensively with high school students for four years, middle schoolers for the same number of years, and children at the grade school level for about six years.

“I have a broad perspective,” she said.

[email protected]